The Fearless Vampire Killers
This is the film Roman Polanski made before his huge hit Rosemary’s Baby. It didn’t fare so well, mostly because MGM had no idea what to do with it. When I first saw it, they had given it the awful title The Fearless Vampire Killers, or Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck. This was totally at odds with what kind of film it is, which is certainly a comedy, but by no means a farce. Polanski didn’t want either title; it was originally Dance of the Vampires. Much better. Also, when I saw it new, they had pasted a really, really amateurish and stupid animated prologue that gave away virtually every joke in the movie. It was as if they were afraid that no one would be able to deal with the concepts of a Jewish vampire and a gay vampire without some advance warning. In spite of all that, I loved this movie, and I still do. It is meticulously crafted, with huge sets and wonderful costumes, and a feel for the cold heart of Transylvania, both the Count in his castle and the peasants in their mean little inn. Jock MacGowran is wonderful as Professor Abronsius, the slightly dotty old vampire hunter. Alfie Bass is great as the Jewish father who goes out to rescue his child (Sharon Tate, and how creepy is it to see her in a film all these years later?) and gets more than he bargained for. Polanski himself portrays the bumbling, terrified assistant. And last but not least, Ferdy Mayne as Count von Prolock is somehow very funny and at the same time much scarier than a hundred other vampire counts in a hundred other vampire movies that are actually trying to scare you.